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SWAHILI MANUSCRIPTS FROM THE SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES

Part 2: The Knappert, Whiteley, Allen, Miscellaneous and Yahya Ali Omar Collections

"Swahili is the most widely spoken African language in Africa with an estimated 100 million speakers.  Swahili is also the Islamic African language with the most highly developed literary tradition, inviting comparison, particularaly in regard  to its poetry, with Farsi (Iran), Urdu (India) and Turkish."
Sean O'Fahey, writing in 'Accessing the Islamic Intellectual Tradition in Africa.'

The Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London holds the largest collection of Swahili manuscripts in Britain.  Dating from the 1790's to the 1970's, these record a literary tradition dating back at least to the 12th century. Many are in Arabic and many contain poetry composed in northern Swahili dialects. Letters, stories, notes, essays on history and culture and drafts of published and unpublished books number among the collection’s offerings. The manuscripts are organised into seven distinctive groupings, named for the scholars who collected them. 

Part 2 covers the Knappert, Miscellaneous and Yahya Ali Omar collections in their entirety (86 manuscripts) and also provides extensive coverage of the Allen and Whiteley collections (76 folders).

The collection is supported by a comprehensive online database prepared by SOAS.  This can be reached at www.swahilimanuscripts.soas.ac.uk



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